BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  Health
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Sunday, 17 March, 2002, 23:59 GMT
Internet gambling breeds addiction
Web user
The web may attract compulsive gamblers
Internet gamblers may be more likely to have a serious gambling problem than other gamblers, say researchers.

It is thought that the web may attract people who are trying to hide their gambling addiction.

The availability of internet gambling may draw individuals who seek out isolated and anonymous contexts for their gambling behaviours

Dr George Ladd & Dr Nancy Petry
The study warns that the explosive growth of the internet will lead to more on-line betting opportunities - and thus increase the risk of more people suffering from the health and emotional difficulties associated with compulsive gambling.

These can include substance abuse, circulatory disease, depression and risky sexual behaviours.

Psychologists Dr George Ladd and Dr Nancy Petry, of the University of Connecticut Health Center, US, surveyed the gambling behaviours of 389 people.

They found nearly 11% were problem gamblers and over 15% met the criteria for pathological gamblers.

Popular forms

The most common forms of gambling reported by the participants were lottery (89%), slot machines (82%) and scratch tickets (79%).

How to reduce the risk
GamCare is negotiating with internet gaming companies to include the following:
natural pauses between betting sessions
customer limits on spend
socially responsible messages about the dangers of gambling
a helpline number
Next came card-playing forms of gambling (71%), sports betting (57%), bingo (56%) and animal betting (53%).

Internet gambling was reported by just over 8% or 31 of the participants and 14 of those people reported gambling on the internet at least weekly.

Although internet gambling was the least common gambling activity of the study's participants, the study found that a majority of those with internet gambling experience had the most serious problems with addiction.

Only 22% of the participants without any internet gambling experience had problems compared with 74% of those who used the web.

Internet gamblers were also more likely to be unmarried and younger. They also tended to have lower education and income levels.

Writing in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, the researchers said: "The availability of internet gambling may draw individuals who seek out isolated and anonymous contexts for their gambling behaviours.

"Accessibility and use of internet gambling opportunities are likely to increase with the explosive growth of the internet."

Absorbing pastime

Paul Bellringer, director of GamCare, an organisation in the UK dealing with the social impact of gambling, agreed that the internet did pose a threat.

He told BBC News Online: "We recognise that internet gambling has the potential to push up the prevalence of problem gambling.

"It is relatively easily to get logged on to a hard gambling activity which is repeated time and time again and to get totally absorbed by it."

Mr Bellringer said that, in common with other forms of gambling, young people were potentially most at risk.

It is estimated that people under the age of 25 are up to three times more likely to become problem gamblers.

Mr Bellringer said: "Problem gamblers cease to be doing it for entertainment value or, despite what they might think, to win something.

"They simply want the gambling activity to last for as long as possible because it makes them feel powerful, they get a buzz from it or it helps them to escape."

Industry safeguards

Nigel Payne, chief executive officer of the internet gambling specialists Sportingbet Plc, said the company operated a database structure which enables it to track the behavior of each punter.

This enabled it to to watch closely for any signs of abnormal behavior, excess spending.

In addition, measures were in place to restrict the amount of money a customer can deposit and win.

Mr Payne said: "Properly regulated and controlled internet gambling is far better for the punter's health than other forms of gambling."

See also:

26 Jan 01 | High Stakes
High Stakes: Problem gambling
25 Feb 02 | Business
Internet gambling hots up
26 Feb 01 | Health
Eyes down to keep mind sharp
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories